The Sims 4 team have announced an outdoorsy-themed game pack called Outdoor Retreat. From the image, it looks like a camping holiday where young men sing soulful songs about red shoes. Maybe he's doing an acoustic guitar version of David Bowie's Let's Dance.
I've now drawn a picture of a campfire and am listening to acoustic versions of Let's Dance to recreate the presumed experience. They're all horrible. I'm never going camping again. Instead, to drive that experience from my brain, let's investigate what a game pack is.
According to EA:
"About nine years ago, during The Sims 2 days, we introduced Stuff Packs to The Sims franchise to change up the way you could customize your Sim stories. Stuff Packs were focused on a specific theme and included clothing, hairstyles, furniture and décor.
"For The Sims 4, we wanted to continue that tradition while giving you even MORE opportunities to craft the stories you want, since a Game Pack provides new gameplay features, new objects and new clothing based around one central theme. Being able to expand your gameplay through a Game Pack allows us to give you some of the things you’ve been asking for and it’s something we are really excited about."
So the idea is that it sits somewhere between a Stuff Pack and a full expansion. You get objects and clothes but there's also a bit of a gameplay impact too. In the case of Outdoor Retreat, EA are billing it as follows: "The woods are packed with gameplay possibilities. Campfire songs, weenie roasts and bear costumes, oh my!"
Thing is, I've not bought The Sims 4 because of the expense. The basic game is £49.99 on Origin at the moment (although it does its best to point you to the deluxe edition at £59.99). From previous games and the pared-down nature of the toolset I've watched being used in Let's Plays made it obvious that there would be - as ever- many a paid expansion or expansion lite bit of DLC to bolster your little world. Some people don't mind EA's approach to their cash cow. They get hundreds of hours-worth of enjoyment from each game and pick up expansions which sound interesting. I did exactly that with the original game and The Sims 2. I tapped out with 3, though and 4 just hasn't inspired me to come back at all.
With that in mind, I've been pondering the idea of a Sims subscription model. A low-cost monthly payment where you can access the game and its current expansions without that sense that you're just waiting for the next prompt to drop $20 (that's what Outdoor Retreat will cost when it's out in January). Obviously it could work out incredibly expensive for the people who play the game for years. There have also been expansions which I hated and wouldn't have wanted added to my game so perhaps there would need to be a "buy outright" option or a curation ability too? I'm not sure, this is more of a fledgling idea than a fully drafted business plan.
The point is that it would make it possible to dip in for a while and experiment. If you liked the game you'd stay or resubscribe when you fancied, if not EA would have still benefitted from you trying the game out rather than saying "£50? And that's just the starter pack? You're 'avin' a LARF mate."
Anyway, yes. Tents. Fires. Acoustic guitars. Weenie roasts. $20. January 2015.